Bizerca restaurant in Heritage Square, Cape Town has something of a reputation. It’s not very expensive dining, but pricey enough that I really think they could do something better than a white paper overlay on their nice white linen tablecoths. I had lunch there a week or so back with Angela Lloyd and Melvyn Minnaar.
We had a very pleasant time, but I wish my abiding memory of the place (as oppose to the delightful company) was of the beautiful starched linen napkin, rather than one of the paper tablecloth and of one person’s starter arriving five minutes after the other two. Perhaps if the food had been more memorable I wouldn’t have cared about the paper, but it wasn’t. It was fine but – and this reprises my last lunchtime at Bizerca – it was not very special. Bizerca seems to think that a lot of showy flavours will suffice to disguise some basically rather pedestrian stuff.
The winelist is limited and generally unexciting, and has more than the usual quota of misspellings – the one I remember most being Comptes [sic] de Champagne from Taittinger, as I was a bit worried that Melvyn might order it. We adventurously chose (well, the final call was admittedly mine, as the others tactfully held back, given that I was paying) the maiden Ghost Corner Pinot Noir 2012, made by David Nieuwoudt of Cederberg from his estate in Elim. It showed a trifle paradoxically – best when it was still cool, but it also opened up in the glass – and overall proved an attractive, thoroughly likeable, lighter-styled, not over-ambitious, and rather rather elegant pinot that hinted at the potential that the Agulhas area has for red wines (syrah, pinot, especially). At R325 (as I recall), it wasn’t an unaceptable mark-up, and reasonable value.
Later in the week a little of the red wine ended up on the tablecoth when I dined with a friend at A Tavola in Claremont. This restaurant probably has less critical acclaim than Bizerca, perhaps because it reliably delivers large, well-priced portions of thoroughly tasty Italian food with no real claims to haute cuisine (“alta cucina” might be more appropriate).
I prefer it to Bizerca, however, even if it is more “suburban” and less chic, and the space is undoubtedly less attractive (though the parking is much easier and cheaper). The food is unfailingly pleasing, interesting but unpretentious, and well priced. The winelist is not noticeably larger than Bizerca’s, but seemed to me a touch more enterprising. A number of wines are offered by the carafe (meaning two decent glasses) and Ginette and I shared a very nice one of De Grendel’s, at a most attractive price – the unusual but successful Winifred blend of chardonnay, semillon and viognier.
It was my glass of barbera ( a really pleasing 2009 – I shamefully forget the producer – that Ginette brought) that I spilt. At which point I registered the tablecoth, and felt embarrassed about the stain, and perhaps a little retrospectively forgiving of Bizerca’s cheapskate paper. No problem, however. The waiter arrived and mopped up the spill. No stain at all – the tablecloth overlay proved to be a clever sort of material that only looked like cloth, but was really something much more usefully plastic.
I confess that, despite green inclinations and a theoretical dislike of bleach and detergents, I’d have preferred it to have been real cloth and a real stain. But it was a lot more attractive than Bizerca’s paper.